Smash Pages Q&A: Trungles on ‘Twisted Romance’

The comics artist discusses his work with Alex de Campi on the Image Comics anthology, how he came into comics and more.

Trungles is coming off a busy 2017. His Fauns and Fairies: The Adult Fantasy Coloring Book was published by Limerence Press, he was a contributor one of the year’s best anthologies, Mirror Mirror II, and he’s been making the webcomic Vampire Buddy. His new project is “Treasured”, the main story in the fourth and final issue of Twisted Romance, which is out this week from Image Comics. I reached out to ask him about romance stories, fairy tales, and finding ways to subvert expectations and tropes.

I like to start by asking people what is it that brought you to comics?

I tell people I fell into comics by accident. I made no designs to make comics professionally for most of my life. I went and studied painting and art history before getting into non-profit work. I started posting sequential work on the internet as a way to understand illustrations from turn-of-the-century Gilded Age advertisements and children’s books. I happened to connect with folks who thought my sequential work could really go somewhere, and I’ve been making comics ever since.

How did get involved in Twisted Romance and what made you say yes?

Alex and I had wanted to work together before, but my visual lexicon wasn’t quite right for the first project. I like folk tales and literary fairy tales, and Alex typically writes thrillers and crime stories. She sent me a script she thought was appropriate for me, and it was exactly what I like to draw. I accepted immediately and in all-caps, if I remember correctly.

Tell me about “Treasured.”

“Treasured” is written like a literary fairy tale. It wears the skin of a folk tale, but it has an intentional core. It’s about where we seek freedom, where we happen to find it, and how those things wind up being more different than we think.

You’re coming off of a 2017 where you’ve put out work like Fauns and Fairies, your work in Mirror Mirror II, Vampire Buddy, and for people who have seen those, where does this story fit in your work?

This is pretty typical of my work, I think. I’m pretty intent on only doing exactly what I want to do because comics aren’t my bread-and-butter. It’s an optimistic fairy story with indulgently illustrated textures and fabrics. With Fauns and Fairies and Mirror Mirror, I explored sexuality and sex in two very different ways. Vampire Buddy is an all-ages weekly Sunday funnies sort of work. This one falls pretty neatly between those things, I think. It’s an accessible story that explores abuse and trauma with a hopeful note running through.

I ask because the very description of the book sounds like a subversion of this kind of fairy tale story. Your style and the way you seem to prefer working is about visually undercutting and altering expectations.

It is! It’s an oddly gentle subversion, I’d say. Fairy stories are fun because they’re often the same stories with different skins, different clothes, that tell you more about the storyteller than anything about the characters. Treasured is an original tale, but it does follow a tradition of fairy tale heroines who exercise agency against a world that insists they should not be able to. It has echoes of stories like The Black Bull or Norroway, Sweet Roland, and East of the Sun and West of the Moon. It resembles a heroes’ journey where most of the action and growth is internal.

Before this if someone mentioned romance comics, what did you think, and has that changed as a result of working on this project?

Romance comics make me think of those old Archie digests I used to pick up at the checkout line in the grocery stores. They were fairly lighthearted and one-note, but those were the closest thing to romance comics I had until I started reading shoujo manga. Right now, I’m excited that people are engaging with romantic fantasies and all their implications. We reckon with fantasies about fear, death, power, upheaval, and humor all the time. Why not love, friendship, and romance?

So what’s next for you? What are you working on and interested in next?

I’m currently chipping away at a couple projects. I’m close to wrapping up a tarot deck, and I’m doing the occasional comic book cover here and there. I’m excited to hop back into Vampire Buddy and those personal projects.

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